Picture Perfect



It a time when cost of PCs and electronics goods is going down
and profit margins are taking a hit, display manufacturing companies are
realizing the importance of implementing innovative ideas. To help achieve this,
UK Displays Network (UKDL), a UK-based network of display manufacturing
companies has taken a lead and is closely working with manufacturers across the
world and India to help them in display matters at all levels of industry,
commerce and academia. The network helps engineers and scientists in research,
display materials, production equipment and display device manufacturing. It
encourages commercial and industrial collaborations between members; helping
manufacturers reduce their production risk apart from reducing the time to
market with an overall reduction in cost.

The activities include displays, lighting, and supporting
technologies through manufacturing. This ranges from the point of initial
scientific invention to the point of product disassembly, recycling and safe
disposal of materials at the end of life. Chris Williams, network director, is a
co-founder of UKDL. The Department of Trade and Industry, Government of UK under
the Technology Program have funded it. It works closely with the Universities of
Swansea and Dundee. UKDL also has close association with technical societies,
institutions, government bodies and sources of finance.

‘The production of
flexible displays, and flexible electronic systems will result in a new
era’

-Chris Williams,
network
director, co-founder of UKDL

Advantages
The display technologies- materials, processes, production equipments-are
developed in the UK. They are of two main types: those that are designed for use
within existing commercially available display technology production systems
used at manufacturers in the Far East, and those that are completely new and
require new ideas and new thinking to organize mass production.

According to Williams, "In looking to exploit the new
technology area of flexible displays, the UK community is drawing heavily on the
experience of those companies who have been involved in the printing industry
for several decades. This collaboration is allowing high tech display companies
fast-track their production process developments."

Inventions Galore
There are companies like ZBD who have invented a type of liquid crystal
technology that can be mass-produced on existing STN LCD production lines, with
just one small change to the production process. This helps in simple displays
becoming bi-stable (when the information is written to the display, it then
requires no power to maintain that display). This is considered to be an ideal
solution for retail signs and labels.

Patterning Technologies and other companies are developing
printing equipments that can be used to deposit materials used in different
layers of STN and Active Matrix LCD, and Plasma displays. Other companies are
developing new metalization materials (transparent and opaque) to replace the
current materials used in mass production. For example, Keeling & Walker
have developed a form of antimony tin oxide (ATO) that can replace ITO in many
display applications. ITO is sold at $1,000 per kg, but ATO is less than $10 per
kg!

Companies are also in the process of developing a complete range
of materials, processes, equipments, and device designs necessary for emerging
technologies such as OLED and flexible displays that will be manufactured on
plastic and even paper substrates. The main differences between these new
display technologies and existing mass production display technologies are that
almost every process step can be performed using additive printing or other
solution processable methods. All this will help next-generation displays to be
more energy efficient in the manufacturing process.

The
Innovator List

Substrates: DuPont
Teijin Films

Display materials:
CDT, OLED-T,
Merck, ZBD, Kingston Chemicals

Flexible display backplanes:

Plastic Logic

Production equipments:
Patterning
Technologies, Inca Digital, Plasma Quest, DEK, Applied Multilayers,
Powerlase, Exitech, Oxford Instruments

Opportunities Aplenty
The low cost in setting up a manufacturing facility will allow more and more
companies to enter into this manufacturing space. According to Williams,
"Eventually, the production of flexible displays, and even flexible
electronic systems (that can comprise of printed sensors, printed photovoltaic
cell and battery, printed electronics and printed display) will result in a new
era where local communities can organize and manufacture many of the devices and
appliances in small volumes for their day to day living needs." He adds
that in printing a device with its own power source (PV cell and battery) will
mean that the device simply continues to work throughout its life without the
need for a connection to the mains electricity or an external battery.
"This will reduce the need to install massive power distribution
infrastructure across a country and to every household, since the individual
power needs are reduced," he says.

The Indian Picture
UK Trade and Investment, the lead UK Government organization which helps
businesses locate in the UK and grow internationally, is helping UKDL to explore
opportunities in emerging manufacturing destinations like India.

According to Williams, "We are in discussion with Videocon
which is showing interest for their Plasma/TFT/LCD manufacturing unit. We are
now preparing a much more detailed plan to present to Indian companies of the
various display and lighting technologies that are available at UK. The Indian
companies can then participate in a variety of business methods which include
licensing, joint venture developments, or straight forward commercial
transactions."

Sudesh Prasad

sudeshp@cybermedia.co.in

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